US 20050018742 A1
An optical bench 10 is cast from a single piece of material and provided with a number of optical component supports 14 which extend upwardly from a base 12. The optical component supports 14 are integral with the base 12, increasing their rigidity. The bench 10 may be cast with additional material in strategic areas to allow for future optimization of the bench 10—for example, the mounting of specific optical components throughout the bench 10. Further, the bench 10 may be provided with regions 24, 26, and 28 of varying rigidity by placing support struts 68 closer together in areas where greater rigidity is required. Apertures 30 may be provided in the bench 10 to enable the routing of conduits through the bench 10.
1. A cast bench for holding laser components comprising:
a base having a top surface; and
a plurality of optical component supports cast with and integral with said base and extending from said top surface, said optical component supports being positioned to support optical components.
2. The bench of
3. The bench of
4. The bench of
5. The bench of
6. The bench of
7. The bench of
8. The bench of
9. The bench of
10. A method for assembling a laser system comprising:
casting an optical bench to form a base having a top surface and a plurality of optical component supports integral with said base and extending from said top surface;
machining selected ones of said optical component supports to adapt said optical component supports to hold optical components; and
selecting optical components from a group of optical components and mounting said selected optical components to said selected ones of said optical component supports.
11. The method of
providing at least one aperture in said base extending through said top surface; and
routing a conduit through said aperture to an optical component mounted on said base.
12. The method of
13. The method of
14. The method of
15. The method of
16. The method of
17. The method of
18. An optical mounting system comprising:
a cast base,
a plurality of optical component supports cast with and integral with said cast base and extending outwardly from a top surface of said cast base;
a plurality of support struts integral with said base and spaced beneath said top surface of said cast base to form a first region and a second region of said cast base, said first region having said support struts spaced more closely together than the support struts of said second region; and
kinematic mount components provided in said top surface of said cast base at said first region of said cast base.
19. The optical mounting system of
20. The optical mounting system of
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention is generally directed to optics and more specifically is directed to a bench for mounting optics in a laser system.
2. Description of the Prior Art
Benches for lasers traditionally comprise a bench base to which a number of separate component-holding supports are attached. For example, a common design for such a bench includes a bench base with a number of threaded holes set therein in a regular pattern. Threaded supports for holding optical components may be inserted into the threaded holes in the base, and the optical components may, in turn, be mounted onto the supports.
Such existing designs for optical benches have several shortcomings. They require a number of pieces to form the component-supporting structure. Further, the threaded connections between the component supports and the base may become loose over time, decreasing the accuracy of component placement. Also, a regular hole pattern may not coincide with the ideal mounting location of a component within the laser. In addition, if components are moved for experimentation or replacement, it is important to remember where on the base the component support was located if future setups are to replicate the original setup of the system. In general, the number of mounting components such as posts and fasteners in known optical bench systems increases the complexity and difficulty of using optical benches. There is a need for an optical bench that maintains the stability of component placement and ease of use over time while simultaneously allowing for flexibility in the setup of optical systems. The present invention is directed to such a system.
According to one embodiment of the present invention, an optical bench is provided with cast supports for holding optical components.
Optical benches according to the present invention may further incorporate pre-cast holes for the routing of electrical conduits, cooling conduits, and other conduits around and through the optical bench.
In addition, optical benches according to the present invention may incorporate kinematic mount components thereon, and in turn may be kinematically mounted to a separate mount.
Optical benches according to the present invention may include supports for optical components as well as non-optical components such as supporting electronics and plumbing.
According to some embodiments of the present invention, a cast optical bench is provided with excess material in strategic locations to enable the post-cast machining of the material for precise placement of optical components and/or supporting devices.
The above summary of the present invention is not intended to represent each embodiment or every aspect of the present invention. This is the purpose of the Figures and the detailed description which follow.
The foregoing and other advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the drawings, in which:
While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail herein. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not intended to be limited to the particular forms disclosed. Rather, the invention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
Optical benches according to the present invention may be created from different materials and manufactured using a number of different methods. One preferred method for manufacturing an optical bench according to the present invention is to cast the entire bench 10 of a single piece of aluminum. Such casting may be done by a variety of casting methods. One method that has been successfully used is the formation of a positive model of the optical bench out of a material such as wood. A negative of the bench is then formed by the packing of sand, with the negative being filled with liquid aluminum to form the positive cast piece. The rough cast piece may be provided with extra material in strategically-located positions, which is later machined to the precision required for optical applications, such as use as a laser bench. The cast piece is put through a process of heating and cooling to stabilize the piece, and then modified as required to complete the fine details of the completed bench. While aluminum is preferred for its thermal conductivity—which prevents distortions in the bench due to hot spots—and for its stiffness relative to its weight, other materials such as titanium, beryllium, or silicon carbide may be used.
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As will be understood more completely with reference to
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Optical benches 10 according to the present invention may be constructed in a variety of shapes and dimensions. For example, the optical bench shown in
Turning now to
The first region 24 of the optical bench 10 is shown with kinematic mount components formed into the top surface 16 of the base 12. Kinematic mounts are provided to fix optical components in predetermined positions while also allowing for thermal expansion of the optical components. A surface kinematic mount cone 38, a surface kinematic mount groove 40, and a surface kinematic mount plane 42 combine to allow kinematic mounting of a component to the first region 24.
It is preferred to place the optical component supports 14 in locations that allow for versatility in mounting optical components to the bench 10. Turning now to
Aligned pairs of supports 54 support telescope mounts 56, which in turn support a telescope 58. In the embodiment of
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An optical bench may be kinematically mounted to another optical support component, such as a table. Kinematic mount areas 72 are provided in the underside of the bench 10 either for direct kinematic mounting or for the attachment of intermediate kinematic mount components to the bench 10.
Also shown in
While the present invention has been described with reference to one or more particular embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that many changes may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.